A while ago Living from Art had an excellent meeting lead by creative coach Sue Davies called ‘What’s in your stick of rock’. It helped us all to think about what is at our core. My three things were creativity, community and opportunity- for everyone. I realised these are part of all my best work, and are very much part of Living from Art. They sum me up better than a more standard CV, so I am sharing them here, for those people who want to know more about me.
I always introduce myself at Living from Art meetings by saying ‘I’m not an Artist’ which is certainly true! This has some advantages. I am happy to say ‘you must explain that to me’, or even ‘I don’t know what you are talking about’ which challenges artists explain their work in an accessible way for the majority of their potential customers. However, creativity, in all its many different forms, is still an essential part of my life. Being around creative people and their work as well as giving myself time to create are both life enhancing, – and I think this is true for almost everyone.
For me there is something very special about people working together to create something. I was a tutor and then director of Art Playground for a few years. We looked for funding, thought up interactive, creative activities for people of all ages, and took them out into different spaces. What happened was wonderful - both the utter absorption of children and grown-ups making something and the sense of a joint endeavour. I know many artists who do great work to help others to do something creative – whether through classes and workshops or community events and projects. I salute you all as well as recognise the tensions and ‘juggling skills’ you may need to keep time and ‘brain space’ for your own creative work.
For many artists their own creative work is something they either ‘need’ or ‘have’ to do alone, at home or in a studio where they may not meet anyone else. In my working life I have done both, sometimes being very much part of a team or community and at other times working for myself, getting on with my work, without interruption or interference. Everyone has their own ideal balance and this changes over time.
I am typing this at home, by myself, with no one telling me how to do it! This is a great part of being a freelancer, but I also need to get out and meet people for some of the week, and to have people I trust to share ideas with. I really value the ‘buzz’ of working with other people to achieve a goal or make something happen –usually an event or exhibition. This remains an important part of my work.
For three years I ran Cheltenham Art Office as a workplace and meeting space for freelancers, remote workers and anyone who needed somewhere to work outside their home or office. Some people were looking for somewhere away from the demands and interruptions of home, other wanted the company of others, rather than the silence of their own four walls. I met a wonderful mixture of people and learnt about the range of different work people were doing and the businesses they were trying to build: their challenges and what helped them to succeed.
I was able to build a positive, productive environment where people could talk or not talk, share ideas and be supported when they needed to. I also helped them make connections and share contacts. I am delighted that the Living from Art Network now offers a similarly supportive environment for artists of all kinds.
For over 30 years my career was in teaching and training, mainly with adults who needed to improve their skills in English and maths. As well as people who have completely missed out on gaining these skills at school, there is a far larger group of people who realise they need to improve their skills further to do what they want in life. Many people have been excluded from all kinds of opportunities for many reasons in addition to their basic skills: poverty, disability, lack of confidence, illness, family breakdown and so on, hence my commitment to opportunities for everyone within a fair, kind and inclusive society.
We all learn differently, and our brains function in different ways. I have worked with many people 1:1 to help them understand the way their brain works, its strengths and particular difficulties, and how to use these differences to their advantage. This is very relevant to my work with artists.
In the last three years I’ve had a lot of practice working with creative, right-brained, visual and holistic thinkers – using my left brained sequential and analytical skills to help them find a way forward with making money from their art. Just as importantly, I recognise the blocks so many of us, particularly women, have about confidence and ‘selling’ ourselves, and why it’s important for people to feel comfortable with how they are going about selling their work.
A few years ago, one of the first Blogs I posted on Linkedin was called ‘Who am I? where I talked about the many different aspects of my work as a freelancer and how I valued them all. I wanted a visual image to show how all these different strands wove in and around each other contributing to my career. I feel very fortunate that helping artists earn the money they need to make the art they love supports all the things that are at the core of what I believe in. I am not an artist myself, but it seems right to include an image I created alongside the words to introduce myself on this website.